In his prime, former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka was considered a good offensive mind. These days, he’s mostly just showing himself as offensive and mindless.
The latest was Ditka telling sports journalist Jim Gray during the “Monday Night Football” pregame show that he doesn’t think anyone has been oppressed in the last 100 years, so NFL players who kneel in protest of racial inequity aren’t protesting anything real.
“There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of,” said Ditka, a Hall of Famer and supporter of President Donald Trump. “Now maybe I’m not watching it as carefully as other people. I think the opportunity is there for everybody ― race, religion, creed, color, nationality. If you want to work, if you want to try, if you want to put effort in, I think you can accomplish anything, and we have watched that throughout our history of our country.”
Ditka, born in 1939, would have been close to 30 years old during the height of the civil rights movement in the late 1960s. Yet he apparently has no memory of it. He was a star player in the NFL from 1961 through 1972, when black players were largely excluded from the league and management actively impeded black quarterbacks.
Ditka has been an outspoken opponent of NFL players’ protest during the national anthem, as has Trump. His astoundingly ill-informed comments on Monday came in response to Gray pressing him to defend his view in light of sports greats like Muhammad Ali, Jesse Owens, John Carlos and Tommy Smith, who called out racial oppression and social injustice.
“I don’t know what social injustices [there] have been.” Mike Ditka
“I don’t know what social injustices [there] have been,” Ditka responded. “Muhammad Ali rose to the top, Jesse Owens is one of the classiest individuals that ever lived. Are you talking that everything is based on color? I don’t see it that way. I think you have to be colorblind in this country. You have to look at a person for what he is and what he stands for and how he produces, not by the color of his skin. That has never had anything to do with anything.”
Ditka’s comments prompted a disbelieving reply from Green Bay tight end (and former Bear) Martellus Bennett:
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman responded: